Photos by Mike McLaughlin
You may already know Ian Perkins as the English fifth member of The Gaslight Anthem. Alongside that band’s Brian Fallon, he was also one half of The Horrible Crowes. Now, though, he’s stepping out on his own, under the moniker Local Summer. Having previously lived in England, Perkins moved to Asbury Park, NJ two years ago, cementing his promotion from being The Gaslight Anthem’s guitar tech to having a constant role in the band.
In his downtime, he started writing songs. It was meant to be a more or less private solo project designed simply to hone his skills at playing and writing, but it soon evolved. Bouncing Souls guitarist Pete Steinkopf suggested Perkins record at the band’s Little Eden studios, and little by little, more people got involved. Gaslight’s Benny Horowitz played drums, Dan Puglsey from Skindred played bass, Steinkopf played organs and keys, and Steve Sidelnyk did programming and beats from his base in England. Dave Hause appears on one song and Gaslight’s Alex Rosamilia wrote the album’s intro. It all makes for a beautiful and enchanting record that’s caught between the influence of two continents—as much as there’s Elliott Smith and Jets to Brazil in these songs, there are also shades of Pink Floyd, Nick Drake, and Billy Bragg. But don’t take our word for it. One of the songs on the record is called “Valentine,” so in celebration of the Hallmark holiday, that track and one other—“Ocean And Evergreen,” the one with Dave Hause—are streaming below The album, out on February 23, is also available to pre-order. We had a little chat with Perkins about Local Summer, New Jersey, and not-so-great expectations.
Noisey: When did you start writing these songs?
Ian Perkins: I started writing them two years ago. I’ve been in the place I’m in for two years and I started right when I moved in.
Did you used to write music back in day, when you were a guitar tech and before?
Yeah, but I’d never written songs. I’ve written music, but not songs. I’d never written a song straight all the way through. But I was just like, “Fuck it. I’m here by myself, so I either wait for someone or I just fucking go for it.” And that’s the thing. It was supposed to be an experiment, just to do it, just to be able to get good at it, and it ended up being this. Thanks to Pete. Pete’s the only reason it’s in existence. He was like, “What have you been doing?” And I was like, “Just writing songs.” And he was like, “Come down to Little Eden and let’s record them! Come down for one day and we’ll just have a day now and again.” And it took a year. We started recording in February last year.
So it was a very relaxed process?
Absolutely. There was no pressure. I wrote this for a year not expecting anyone to every hear it. It was truly not supposed to be a band. It was not supposed to be anything. The whole idea was just to help my singing or guitar playing and that’s all.
Did doing The Horrible Crowes with Brian make you think that doing this might be a possibility?
Yeah. Flying out to do that, I was like, “What the fuck am I doing?” I’d just gone from guitar teching to getting on a plane to fly to New Jersey to record that. I was like, “This is not supposed to be happening!”
So that gave you the confidence to write your own songs?
No. I still don’t have the confidence. This is not supposed to happen, do you know what I mean? I never thought this record would reach this point. And I’d never written lyrics before in my life. My original approach was to be super vague and hippie about it. My original thought was, “Who cares about the lyrics?” but I quickly realized that if you’re going to do it by yourself and it’s super stripped back, then the main focus is going to be what you’re saying. And if what you’re saying is not the truth, or you’re not behind it 100%, it’s not even worth doing. So everything on this record is legit real. It’s real life. But honestly, what I based a lot of this stuff on is an interview I saw with Josh Homme where he was giving advice to people starting out in music. And he said, “If you expect anything from music, you expect too much.” And that shaped the whole thing with this. I have zero expectations for anything. Every single step is a bonus—writing the songs, getting Benny to play on it, getting Pete from the Souls to play on it, even just getting it finished. If people like it, cool, but if they don’t, that’s cool. I can just delete it or something.
They will. It’s great. You’ll be pressing it on vinyl before you know it.
If people like it enough, then that’s another bonus, but zero expectations!
What would you say the album is about? What does it mean and represent?
It’s kind of a message to send back home. The whole concept of it was that I was stuck in Jersey by myself. Like, “I don’t know anybody, I’ve got no fucking friends, I don’t even know the town.” I moved to this town and I didn’t know where I was going or anything. And I feel all the songs reflect that. No one back home knows. You move somewhere, but my family back home don’t know New Jersey or people here. And vice versa. No one from here really knows what the deal is back home.
I moved here in February and it was cold as fuck. I’m used to being away from home. That’s not a problem for me. The main problem was knowing that at the end of the tour, I wasn’t going back to England anymore. I was going back to New Jersey and that was hard. You know, I’d moved to a cool place with nice for a good reason, but family is everything to me. When I’m home, I hang with my family every single day. So to have that gone was tough.
Do you feel at home here now?
Definitely more so. The first year I was here it was pretty bleak. I didn’t go out that much, I didn’t know that many people, so I’d get home from tour and just sit in my house and play my guitar. If I went out once a day, that was my goal. I’d go running along the boardwalk or whatever and come back and be like, “I’ve been out. Cool.” Honestly, I could go days without leaving the house. But now, I’ve got a whole bunch of people here, I go out first thing in the morning, I’ve been surfing. It’s a whole different ball game. Living by the sea is a weird thing for me being from right in the middle of England and there’s a way of life around here that if you don’t know how it works and you try and live a certain way against it, you won’t get on very well.
It’s called Cheery Veneer, but it’s not a very cheery record…
There’s a funny story about that. It was going to be called something else, but Kate, the Bouncing Souls’ manager, came down to the studio with Matt, who’s Bouncing Souls’ merch guy and plays in some amazing bands around here, and was like, “We’ve made up a name for your record—Cheery Veneer.” I’m like, “What the fuck’s that?” And she said, “You always come across as a happy person but all this music is so sad. You have a cheery veneer.”
And ideally, what are your hopes for the record? Do you see it as the start of something?
If I could pick how it would go, I would love to make another one with the same people involved who helped me on this one, but I’d love to do it where all those guys are in the room at the same time. Because none of them were at all. Everything was so thrown together. And I’m glad it was—I wouldn’t have it any other way. But I’d love to do it again in a different way. And there were a couple of people that I asked who, for whatever reason, couldn’t make it. I had ideas way further than it was possible to achieve by just going into the studio one or two a days a month! And maybe get this out on vinyl. That would be cool. I don’t really care about playing it live. I don’t think it’s that kind of record. But I did it all on my own terms and I had the most fun doing it and I just want to keep that trajectory going.